Trial by Error

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 1819
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

He can't help but to silently berate himself as he watches machines keep his little brother alive. It is his fault, as he has told himself many times before, that Luffy is in such a precarious condition. It's his fault that the happy-go-lucky boy is reduced to such a helpless state, barely clinging to life and so very vulnerable. It is his duty to protect Luffy, always has been, and yet he has failed.

When Jinbei finally pries him, very literally, from Luffy's bedside and out into the fresh air of Amazon Lily's forest, he explodes into a fit of rage. He needs to be there for his brother when he wakes up! He needs to be there to protect him and comfort him! Most of all, he needs to be there-

"Enough, Ace-kun!" Jinbei isn't holding back with his punches, and he sends Ace through a few trees. "His would Luffy-kun feel if he knew you were killing yourself over him?!" That gets to him. Jinbei had known it would, unlike the other methods Ace had tried since he had recovered from his own injuries. They hadn't been as extensive as Luffy's but they had been grievous enough in their own right. "You haven't slept, and you've barely eaten anything since Marineford!"

That had been two weeks ago. Ace is running on empty and hadn't even noticed it. Luffy will be… Oh, god. Luffy will be furious. It is a surprise that his narcolepsy hasn't kicked in at all for these past two weeks, so he really hasn't gotten any sleep, and the angry grumble of his stomach will be nothing compared to Luffy's anger at him for not eating. That boy never misses a meal if he can help it, so completely forgetting to eat is almost the equivalent of a sin.

Ace stumbles over his own feet as he stands, and he gratefully accepts Jinbei's extended hand. He slumps against the Fishman, his exhaustion setting in, and he succumbs to his body's need for rest. Food can come later when he is much more rested. Just as he slips into unconsciousness there is an ominous explosion from the direction of Law's submersible, followed by the familiar yell of "AAACCCE!"

Where is he? Where is his brother?! They had been there, together, at Marineford! He remembers fighting his way to the scaffold where his brother had been chained up, like a dog. He remembers freeing his brother with Three-san's help, and then they had been running. They had been trying to escape! Only, he had been so tired. Everything had hurt, and he couldn't move anymore. Akainu had tried to attack them. The Admiral had hurt Ace! And then Luffy had dropped to his knees. He had dropped Ace's Vivre Card. His brother had given it to him in Alabasta. It had led him to Ace. He can't lose it. It was just out of his reach. His fingertips barely caught its edges. Why did he have so much trouble seeing?


Ace was rushing towards him and then Akainu punched. The fist was made of molten magma, and there was Ace… He can't remember any more than that. His head hurts. Where is Ace?! He breaks the machines, destroys the walls. The war is gone. Marineford is gone. A familiar island greets him but there is no Ace.


He yells. People are already scrambling around on the deck to see what is going on. He doesn't know them. Doesn't recognize them from Sabaody. All he cares about is finding Ace. Where is his brother!?

"Be careful! Calm down, Mugiwara!"

"Where are you going?! Don't go wild on us! Fire Fist is…"

No! He isn't dead! He isn't! "AAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WHERE'S ACE?!" He can't be dead! "ACE!"

And there is Jinbei, running towards him. A familiar body is slung over the Fishman's shoulder, a bold purple and white mark on an unblemished tan back. Ace's pride and joy.

He isn't dead… Can't be. He is right there, slung over Jinbei's shoulder, so he is alive. He has to be alive. That terrible dream has to be wrong.

"Luffy-kun!" Jinbei is in front of him now, and he is carefully laying Ace out on the grass. Ace's chest is moving, even if the motion is shallow, and relief washes through Luffy. It feels as though a heavy weight is being lifted from his shoulders. "Ace-kun is fine." Exhausted and famished but otherwise fine. Jinbei says nothing of Ace's self-inflicted condition, something that the logia user will surely want to inform his brother of on his own.

Luffy, as injured as he still is, scoots over to his unconscious brother and pulls Ace up onto his lap. He all but clings to him as if he is his only lifeline in the vast seas of their planet, and his tears flow freely. He had truly thought that Ace had been killed, and Ace is his most precious person so losing him would have been more than devastating. It would have crushed his will, no doubt, and he probably would have given up on his dream of becoming Pirate King.

With the commotion finally settled down, the Heart Pirates, sans Law, check on the damage to their ship. Such a reaction from the Mugiwara Captain hadn't been expected, and the damage is quite extensive. Bepo sets the crew on repairs right away, and he hopes that whatever had set Luffy off won't occur again.

Hours pass. The Heart Pirates manage to get most of the damage fixed, and Jinbei is watching over the brothers from a nearby boulder. Law joins him for a while if only to see how his patient's wounds are holding up despite the fact that he holds no obligation towards the younger pirate. Luffy's tears have finally stopped, and he is now silently observing the sleeping Ace.

A delicious smell soon wafts through the area, and Luffy's stomach decides that this is the moment to growl, as if to remind him of all the meals he has missed. He doesn't bother to calculate it but he knows that he is going to end up eating the majority of the food to make up for his missed meals. Ace must be hungry too because he has been asleep the entire time Luffy has been sitting here with him.

"Ace, it's time to eat!" A wide grin stretches across Luffy's face, and he cheerfully pokes his brother on the cheek. Ace scrunches his face up funnily, and he grumbles something under his breath as he turns his head away from Luffy's invasive poking. This draws a laugh from Luffy and has him poking Ace on the same cheek again. The process repeats itself until Ace has completely wormed his way off of Luffy's lap, with Luffy shifting onto his knees just to follow him and poke him some more.

Ace wakes up, quite grumpily, well before the food arrives, and he is greeted with the cheerfully grinning face of his brother. It takes him a few seconds to blink away the immediate shock, and his grumpiness melts into happiness. "Luffy! You're awake!" He sits up and pulls Luffy into a tight hug, making the younger pirate wince. Ace instantly lets go of him, an apologetic look on his face as he takes in the bandages that are still wrapped around Luffy from his head to his feet.

"Ace is funny. Of course, I'm awake." And he is so very hungry too. The smell of food is getting stronger, and he is starting to drool. "It's time for-" With a slight scowl, he glances up at the sky in an effort to determine what meal time it is. It is too late for breakfast, and it looks like it is too late for lunch. It isn't quite dinner time yet, so it must be snack time. "It's snack time!"

Ace can only stare at Luffy, at least until he finally comprehends that it is time to eat. He can smell the food too but he's only just woken up, and he's still so tired, so it's taking him a little more time to become more aware. He can't have been sleeping for too long. A few hours maybe. Just how long has Luffy been awake? Ace finally notices that they are outside, and not far from Law's submarine. The Heart Pirates are working on some damage to it that he doesn't recall it having. He hasn't left it until now, though it had been through force, so he doesn't know much of anything that has gone on.

"C'mon, Ace! Let's go eat!" Luffy is as energetic as ever, and it is hard to tell if he knows that he is injured. The heavily bandaged teen is literally bouncing on the spot and only shoots up onto his feet once Ace moves to get up. Ace figures that he can sleep some more after he eats as long as his narcolepsy doesn't kick in since what little rest he did manage to get seems to have helped. Luffy, on the other hand, probably won't be sleeping for a while.

Snack time, as Luffy has deemed it, becomes an all-out war between the two brothers, leaving everyone else present with barely anything to eat themselves. The Heart Pirates, Jinbei, and the attending Kuja can only watch and stare in shock as morsel after morsel is devoured by Luffy and Ace at a rate that is, quite frankly, inhuman. Some of the Kuja have witnessed it before but they can still scarcely believe that such a feat is possible.

Once the brothers are contentedly full, Luffy takes it upon himself to use Ace as if he is a pillow, much to Ace's feigned protests. The young pirate soon finds a hand in his hair, and he closes his eyes. Against the darkness of his eyelids, he replays the last of what he can remember from the war. He had stumbled…dropped Ace's Vivre Card, and he had been trying to reach for it. Ace had shouted his name. Akainu had punched, his fist made of deadly magma. Ace was there on the ground beside him and… Garp. Oh, god. Grandpa had taken the hit. He had saved Ace! Ace is alive and Grandpa Garp is…

"Ace…" His brother tenses at the tone of his voice, and Luffy opens his eyes to look up at Ace's freckled visage. "Jii-chan… Is he…" He can't bear to ask it. Ace's facial expression is enough of an answer for him, however, and Luffy can feel the sting of tears in his eyes. The only other family member he has known is gone. Grandpa Garp is dead, all because he hadn't been able to defend himself. Sure, he didn't exactly get along with the old Marine but he loves him because Garp had been there for him.

Ace, on the other hand, isn't as affected by Garp's death. Yeah, the old man had taken him in and had saved him, but being dropped off into the care of bandits kind of soured everything between them. It wasn't until just recently that he had found out why Garp had saved him as an infant, all because of a promise Garp had made to Roger. Ace had been questioning the reason for his existence now more than ever but seeing Luffy so emotionally distraught over Garp's death… If it had been him instead of Garp… He's probably right in his assumption of how Luffy would have reacted to his death. There isn't a doubt in his mind now about his reason for existing. It is a good thing that he had been born, and he is determined now more than ever to keep the foolhardy promise he had made to Luffy all those years ago. "Everything is going to be okay, Lu."

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